I was listening to Black Sabbath’s second album in the car the other day, and Eleanor piped up from the back seat:
“This is the same song you played yesterday.”
After a little bit she went on, “I like this song.”
“Mmm. It’s good. You can dance to it.”
I picked up the CD cover and looked at the name of the song. It was War Pigs. It certainly is a cracking song, but I really can’t imagine Eleanor dancing to it.
By a strange coincidence I picked up Ted Hughes’ children’s story Iron Man the other day at the library and then realised that Iron Man is also a track on the Sabbath album. Of the two I think I prefer the Ted Hughes version. I wondered if the song was based on the book (the book is 1968 and the song is 1970), but I can find no such link although they are both about gigantic robots that have mixed relations with man.
As with any early(ish) work by Hughes it is always a little bit depressing to read his dedications. Iron Man is dedicated to Frieda and Nicholas, his children with Plath.
Wikipedia tells me that Iron Man by Sabbath is about:
a man who time travels into the future of the world, and sees the apocalypse. In the process of returning to the present, he is turned into steel by a magnetic field. He is rendered mute, unable verbally to warn people of his time of the impending destruction. His attempts to communicate are ignored and mocked. This causes Iron Man to become angry, and have his revenge on mankind, causing the destruction seen in his vision.
Well, if you say so. What I get is some vague schtick about a pissed off robot. I like Black Sabbath, and they at least try and write about things rather than just rambling about Satan or the size of their genitals, but the thing I really like about them is that they are obviously a band of crack musicians who are making music that they love (listen to Faeries Wear Boots or Rat Salad). You get the feeling, especially on the first album, that these guys are playing for themselves and don’t really give a stuff if the world notices.
Naturally the world did notice. I suppose Sabbath are a heavy metal band, but someone forgot to tell the drummer who keeps switching time and doing jazz fills; or the bass player who would seem to be trying out for some kind of funk band. That’s the thing about music or writing or film that is good: it is unconcerned with what the audience thinks.
Which brings this post about very little to the beginning of the essay Self Reliance by Emerson. It is a long quote, but I humbly beg you read it through because there is a lot of wisdom in it.
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
To thine ownself be true.